Jul 14, 2:46 PM EDT

Kentucky distilleries can begin selling mixed drinks Friday



FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) -- Beginning Friday, bourbon distilleries in Kentucky can sell cocktails to the estimated 900,000 people that tour them every year. But the new law, at least at first, will cost MB Roland Distillery co-founder Paul Tomaszewski some money.

"I'll buy the first drink for whoever walks in the door," he said.

The small distillery in Pembroke has already filed its paperwork and is scheduled to receive one of the first licenses in the state on Friday to allow visitors of Kentucky's famous "bourbon trail" to buy cocktails. It's one of more than 90 new laws scheduled to take effect on Friday that state lawmakers approved earlier this year.

In addition to sipping an Old Fashioned at a distillery, beginning Friday Kentuckians can also stop their cars on a highway for up to 15 minutes to pick up litter with the Adopt-a-Highway program, get a marriage license that excludes the name of their local county clerk and ask a judge to vacate certain felony convictions.

The state legislature generally meets from January until early April, but most of the laws they pass take effect on July 15. Others, including a new fee for pre-paid cellphone users that goes into effect in January, have specific start dates written into the law.

While bourbon distilleries could get permits to sell beer and wine, they have not been allowed to sell mixed drinks featuring their own products. After getting its license on Friday, Tomaszewski said MB Roland is having a free concert on Saturday night. He said he's already ordered five frozen drink machines to make and sell daiquiris.

"Tourism is really going to be the main benefit here," said Steven Edwards, commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

But not every distillery will be selling drinks on Friday. Of the state's 54 distilleries, 10 have filed applications with the Kentucky Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. They include Maker's Mark Distillery Inc., Jim Beam Brands Co., Dueling Grounds Distillery and Brown-Forman, which owns the brand Woodford Reserve.

Kentucky Distillers Association spokeswoman Kristin Meadors said most distilleries need time to build a space suitable to serving drinks to create "a first class experience."

The new law also affects brewers, allowing some larger brewers to have tap rooms and sell beer to tourists. It lets wineries increase their production to 100,000 gallons a year from 50,000 gallons.

Other laws going into effect include one that gives some people a second chance.

For West Powell, Friday marks the chance to clear his record. The 45-year-old spent one year in jail for stealing car radios 27 years ago. He has not committed a crime since then. But his felony conviction has followed him, making it hard to keep a job and get an education.

But a new law will give people like Powell the chance to vacate their convictions, meaning those felonies won't show up on background checks and people will not be required to disclose them on applications for jobs or school.

"I can get this monkey off my back that's been there for years," Powell said.

But the process is complicated. Not all felonies are eligible - just 61 of the more than 300 class D felonies in Kentucky, including things like theft and possession of illegal drugs. People have to wait five years after the completion of their sentence before they can apply to the court, and they cannot have any pending charges.

The Administrative Office of the Courts must first certify people are eligible to have their convictions vacated, which consists of an online application and a $40 fee. Then people must file a motion to vacate and expunge with the court, which includes a $500 fee.

Powell said he had to borrow $500 from his friends and family.

"They really need to work on getting that (fee) lowered," Powell said. "I don't know how they expect someone who can barely get a job and keep a job to pay that kind of money."

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